Musical producer

Award-winning actor-writer-producer John Leguizamo to deliver Vassar’s 2022 launch speech

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY, February 23, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Award-winning actor, screenwriter, producer and director John Leguizamo will deliver the address to Vassar College 158and Start on May 22President Elizabeth Bradley announcement.

Leguizamo is married to Justine Maurera member of by Vassar Class of 1990, and the couple have two children, a daughter, Allegra, and a son, Lucas, who is a member of the class of 2023. Leguizamo said he has visited campus several times, including a d a day to talk to students about his job. “Lucas loves being a student at Vassarand Justine has such great love for Vassarand many of her close friends are her Vassar friends, so it’s really special that I’m talking to Commencement,” he said. “I want to be funny, obviously, and I want to give graduates something to feel good about themselves.”

President Bradley said she looked forward to hearing Leguizamo’s speech. “by John Leguizamo his career defies description,” she said. “The breadth of his accomplishments in so many aspects of the entertainment industry is truly remarkable.”

Leguizamo’s family immigrated from Colombia when he was four years old and settled in the Jackson Heights neighborhood in queens. “What I remember of those early days is that it was cold and dirty,” he said. “Jackson Heights was mostly white when we got there. The white flight was happening, but before they left, they beat me.”

Leguizamo said he learned to use humor as a defense mechanism and his behavior often disrupted the class, but advice from a high school math teacher sparked his career. “I was a troublemaker, and she told me to find a way to put my antics to better use,” he recalled.

He got a job at a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant to pay for acting lessons and quickly found success. “I wrote a scene about a troubled young immigrant in therapy, and I crushed it,” he said. “NYU students started asking me to play in their student plays. At 17, I had that Aha! moment.”

Soon, Leguizamo was doing stand-up in clubs of Greenwich Village alongside other young comedians like Robin Williams. “It wasn’t the commercial stuff you’ve seen in places like Catch a Rising Star,” he said, “It was edgy, edgy, political stuff.”

Leguizamo said he learned to hone his craft as a writer out of necessity, as Latinx actors weren’t in high demand at the time. “So I started writing and found there was a huge demand for stories with Latin themes,” he said. “And as I kept writing, the offers kept coming.”

One of those offers was a gangster role in the critically acclaimed 1993 action film Carlito Way, where he starred alongside Al Pacino – and where he met Maurer, who worked in the film’s costume department. His latest film project is a lead role in violent nighta dark thriller still in production.

Leguizamo’s versatility is reflected in the awards he has won for his writing as well as his acting. In 1991, he wrote and starred in the Off-Broadway production Mambo Mouth, which earned him an Obie Award. In 1993, he wrote and acted in Spic-O-Ramain which he poked fun at the entertainment industry’s stereotypes of Spanish speakers United States. The production won a Drama Desk Award and four Cable ACE awards. He won a Prime-Time Emmy Award for his stand-up comedy production Freakdirected by Spike Leein 1998. And in 2018, Leguizamo received a special Tony Award after completing a long-running Broadway series Latin history for morons, his latest one-man show, delivering his perspective on 500 years of Latin American history ranging from the Aztec and Inca empires to World War II.

Later that year, Leguizamo’s musical, Kiss my Aztecwill open at Hartford (TC) Step. “It’s a comedy set in the 1500s, after the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs, and it’s about an uprising against the Spanish viceroy,” Leguizamo explained. “He’s kind of Book of Mormon meets spamlot.”

One of his most recent projects is PhenomX, a five-part comic series about a Latinx superhero.

Asked how he continues to find new ways to expand his career, Leguizamo said writing has always been key. “I write every day,” he said. “I always have several projects going on at the same time because you never know which one will work.

“When it works, history is written for a while,” he continued. “Then the real work begins, because writing is rewriting, and you never stop tweaking. That’s the creative process.”

Forty years into his career, Leguizamo says he’s still nervous in front of an audience, and he doesn’t expect that to change when he faces by Vassar Class of 2022. “I’m always happy to be nervous because it gives you the edge you need to perform,” he said. “I’ll prepare my speech meticulously, but I’ll still be full of energy when I stand up in front of the crowd. That’s the power and beauty of entertainment, and it’s intoxicating.”

Leguizamo replaces Jeh Charles Johnsonformer Secretary of Homeland Security and son of the late Jeh Vincent Johnsonlong-time professor of architecture at Vassar, as the keynote speaker. Johnson stepped down as a speaker last week.

Vassar College is a coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.

PHOTO: Download a high resolution image from the Vassar College Media Relations Flickr website.

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